(BPT) - Do you dream of seeing majestic wild animals in their natural habitat? If viewing the world’s most impressive wildlife is on your bucket list, a safari is the way to do it. You may have even heard of the “Big 5”: lions, leopards, elephants, rhino and buffalo.
While many African safari destinations are home to the “Big 5,” Uganda is one of few countries in the world where you can also encounter both chimpanzees and endangered mountain gorillas — rounding out the list to the “Big 7.” These animals comprise the ultimate wildlife bucket list, making Uganda the destination of a lifetime.
In Uganda, you can be awed by all of these spectacular animals. Travelers interested in these species can prepare for their trip by brushing up on the proper term for each animal.
1. A pride of lions
Uganda's Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the few places in the world where you can observe tree-climbing lions. Trees allow lions to escape both pesky flies and the heat on the ground. The Uganda Carnivore Program provides guided lion-tracking, plus nocturnal tours with a local researcher.
2. A leap of leopards
The best Ugandan national parks for spotting (no pun intended) the elusive leopard include Kidepo Valley National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake Mburo National Park. Because of their reclusive nature and the spotted coats that allow them to blend in with their surroundings, it’s a special gift to have the chance to see a leopard in the wild.
3. A parade of elephants
African elephants can be found in national parks throughout Uganda, with the largest populations in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park. With a Nile River safari, travelers take a boat ride to the base of Murchison Falls to see elephants right at the water’s edge. With just bird calls as background noise, witnessing these creatures up close is an incredible experience.
4. A crash of rhino
The only place in Uganda to spot the white rhinoceros is at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary rhinoceros re-introduction project, run by the Rhino Fund Uganda and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Two white rhino calves were born this past August, bringing the total number of white rhinoceros at the sanctuary to 32. White rhinos are the most social of all the rhinoceros species, and can always be seen grazing together.
5. A gang of buffalo
African buffalo are the only one of the “Big 7” species that aren’t endangered, threatened or vulnerable. They can be found throughout many of Uganda’s national parks. Travelers can witness the strength of the buffalo as they exhibit profound moments of courage when threatened, or when defending members of their gang. Standoffs between lions and buffalo can last for hours.
6. A community of chimpanzees
Compared to mountain gorillas, chimpanzees are loud and wild. Hikers will hear them before they see them, as they swing and climb high up in the trees. Some of the best locales to spot chimps in Uganda include Budongo Forest near Murchison Falls National Park, Kibale National Park and Kalinzu Forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Travelers can also visit Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Lake Victoria, which offers half and full day tours.
7. A troop of mountain gorillas
Over half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas can be found in Uganda where travelers can visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. With a recent baby boom, mountain gorilla babies are winning the hearts of travelers and attracting the clicks of cameras. Eight gorilla babies have been born in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park since January 2020, compared to three in all of 2019 — with five of them born over just six weeks. Once travelers find gorillas during their trekking experience, they can enjoy one hour with them, at a distance. COVID-19 protocols for gorilla trekking mandates that travelers must wear masks, and must remain a minimum of 32 feet away from the species, to protect their health.
Uganda's 10 national parks provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see the spectacular "Big 7", along with giraffe, zebra, hippo and crocodiles — plus over half the bird species found in Africa. To learn more, check out VisitUganda.com.